My Ten Favorite Documentaries

Gorman Bechard is a tremendously talented filmmaker, and while he is most noted for his documentaries like Color Me Obsessed: A Film About The Replacements and A Dog Named Gucci (which would likely have made this list) he has also done some wonderful narrative films.  I recently watched two of them, I Am Alone and Broken Side of Time.  Discussing my thoughts on those films with him led to a discussion of other films, and of documentaries.  Tonight he asked me to give him my favorite ten documentaries.  As usual, in my “do it now or procrastinate forever” way, I put this list together on the fly, which I now present to you AND to him.

For obvious reasons, I barred myself from including any of Gorman Bechard’s films.  For unknown reasons – because I like to make things harder on myself – I am also excluding concert films from the list.  That means Gimme Shelter, Stop Making Sense, The Last Waltz, Woodstock, (I suppose even The Song Remains the Same) and similar films are not allowed on this list.  Color Me Obsessed WOULD have been allowed, but it is barred by the “no Gorman Bechard” rule.  And I can’t include the upcoming “Who is Lydia Loveless?” both because of that rule and because I haven’t seen it yet.

The final rule I gave myself is that the documentary needs to hold up to multiple viewings.  I had great love for Capturing the Friedmans and Stone Reader, for example, but they don’t carry the impact they did when I first saw them.  They’re worth seeing you’ve never watched them, but they didn’t make the list.

Looking at my list I realize that sports documentaries don’t do it for me.  When We Were Kings and Hoop Dreams have received universal praise, but they don’t make my list.  It’s simply personal preference.  Well, the whole list is personal preference.  I also have an aversion to where the filmmaker is as important as the story.  That’s why I have never enjoyed Michael Moore’s work.

I also can see immediately that my love of film causes me to also have a preference for documentaries about film.  That’s me, tough luck.

So, in no particular order, here are my ten favorite documentaries.  I offer them to you with very little comment.

Jesus Camp – – At some points (the radio commentator who we see in studio, for example) this film can get a bit preachy (no pun intended).  Otherwise I haven’t gotten tired of it after ten years.

My Kid Could Paint That – – Modern Art and obnoxious parents: a great combination.

The Imposter – – People can convince themselves to believe anything.

Sick: The Life and Death of Bob Flanagan, Supermasochist – – A film about incurable disease, coping, and masochism.

Jodorowski’s Dune – – It might have been a classic for the ages.  Or is it simply an all-consuming obsession?

Blackfish – – I was never able to think of Sea World the same after this film.

The Cave of Forgotten Dreams – – Werner Herzog had to make the list somewhere.

Hearts of Darkness – – The making of Apocalypse Now.

The Thin Blue Line – – Almost 30 years later I can still watch and enjoy this.

Lost Soul: The Doomed Journey of Richard Stanley’s Island of Dr. Moreau – – Things can spiral out of control quickly.

Honorable mention goes to:

Dear Zachary – – I defy you to watch this and not shed one tear.

Paradise Lost – – Modern day Salem Witch trials.  I think this documentary spawned two sequels.


So that’s my list.  What’s yours?  Post it in the comments here on After Some Wine or email it to me at


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